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David Leebron

Campus student body presidents call for veto of campus carry bill

From the Rice Thresher:

In a letter signed by 12 other Texas university presidents, Student Association President Jazz Silva called for Texas Governor Greg Abbott to not sign Senate Bill 11, which would allow licensed Texans to carry concealed handguns on college campuses statewide, including at Rice. Abbott has previously said he will sign the measure into law.

“I know that it is quite atypical of a Rice SA president to behave ‘politically’,” Silva said. “However, I feel that the letter is not only reasonable, but I trust that it is something Rice students would stand for.”

The law, if signed, would take effect on Aug 1, 2016 and allow those age 21 or above to carry a concealed handgun at Rice, unless the university opts out. A provision in the bill allows private institutions to do so if they first consult their faculty, staff and students, Rice President David Leebron said in staff-wide email.

“Should the governor sign the bill, we would engage in such consultation in the near future,” Leebron said. “Rest assured that, after those consultations, our expectation is to maintain [Rice’s current no-weapons policy] … In the coming months, we will take the steps needed to maintain [our] welcoming and secure campus.”

Silva’s letter states all Texas schools, not just private institutions, should be able to opt out should they desire.

“Not all university campuses are identical; they have different cultures, needs and beliefs,” the letter reads. “We trust that our administrators, students, and elected student representatives know how to create a safe educational environment. We should not only be enabled, but empowered to make these decisions on our own based on our individual needs, as universities.”

Silva said she and University of Texas at San Antonio Student Government Association President Ileana Gonzalez drafted the opposition letter together and gathered support from other Texas university presidents, who altogether represent over 300,000 students.

“I don’t speak directly to whether or not guns should be allowed on campus; I only ask that public universities be given the right to choose for themselves – the same right that private institutions currently have,” Silva said.

[…]

The letter is also signed by the student body presidents of Angelo State University, Trinity University, the University of Houston, the University of North Texas, Texas Tech University, the UH Clear Lake, UT Austin, UH Downtown, San Jacinto College, Houston Community College and UT Dallas.

Good for them. Abbott will still sign the bill, but at least they’re making themselves heard. I’m glad to hear what Rice President Leebron has to say on the issue, and I suspect that at least the non-religiously-oriented private schools will follow that same path; I certainly expect my alma mater to do so. I hope someone follows up on this in a year or two – I’ll be very interested to see what direction the different schools take. The Chron and the Current have more.

KTRU joins forces with KPFT

KTRU will broadcast over the air again, just from a different spot on the dial.

[Rice University] said Saturday that KTRU will broadcast over a digital channel assigned to radio station KPFT, beginning Feb. 14.

“We’re excited,” said Joey Yang, KTRU station manager and a junior at Rice. “We think HD radio is going to be a viable option for us.”

The deal was reached with the Pacifica Foundation, which owns KPFT, and appears to resolve one of the most contentious issues that arose after Rice agreed to sell the KTRU tower and license to the University of Houston for $9.5 million.

[…]

KTRU’s programming — featuring student and volunteer disc jockeys, playing an eclectic mix of music – will be available through KPFT’s HD2 channel, as well as over the Internet and, for now, its 91.7 FM frequency.

[Rice President David] Leebron said the overlap will give KTRU more time to promote the HD channel and Internet broadcast.

[…]

Yang said KTRU will expand its focus on local music, “music being made in and around Houston.”

KPFT General Manager Duane Bradley said that fits with Pacifica’s mission of “exposing unexposed artists.

“We look at a lot of what Rice does as an extension of our mission.”

KPFT will continue to broadcast at 90.1 FM and its HD1 channel. It currently has news and other programming on the HD2 channel but will move that to a third high-definition channel, Bradley said.

Here’s the press release from KPFT. All things considered, I think that’s about as good an outcome as one could hope for. KTRU and KPFT were the two most like-minded stations on the radio to begin with, so this kind of partnership should be a good fit. Plus, UH will provide some paid internships for Rice students for the first three year. It won’t satisfy everyone, as Leebron said, and the way Rice went about selling the station was still crappy, but it’s an acceptable ending. Kudos to all for getting it done.

KTRU supporters go to the FCC

I wish them luck, but I would not hold out much hope.

Supporters of Rice University’s student-run radio station have formally asked the Federal Communications Commission to deny the station’s sale to the University of Houston, contending it would weaken the educational mission intended by the FCC and harm listeners.

Joey Yang, a Rice student and KTRU station manager, said the goal is to stop the $9.5 million sale, which was approved last summer.

[…]

“There’s nothing like KTRU on the air right now,” Yang said. “(National Public Radio) and classical music are both well-served by KUHF’s current format. We think the loss of the independent, eclectic format is a net loss to the community.”

The petition was filed Friday, the final day public comments on the proposal were accepted by the FCC.

No date has been set for a decision, but FCC spokeswoman Janice Wise said the commission tries to act “in a timely manner.”

The full Petition to Deny is at Save KTRU. Here’s their press release, with a brief summary of what the petition contains:

  • The proposed programming for the new station would significantly decrease community-oriented programming, in contravention of the FCC’s emphasis on broadcast localism
  • The proposed assignment would be contrary to the educational purpose of the non-commercial FM license
  • Internet transmission of KTRU would be a poor substitute for FM broadcast
  • Houston-area non-commercial, educational FM licenses would be overly concentrated in the hands of UHS and non-independent operators
  • Questions exist as to the qualifications of UHS holding an additional NCE FM license
  • Rice and UH’s secrecy, deception excluded student and community participation
  • Characterization of FM radio license as a “declining asset” and sale at a below market price is harmful to the public interest

These are all valid points, I just don’t think they’re going get anywhere with them. I could be wrong. Regarding that penultimate bullet point, I refer you to the Houston Press “Turkey of the Year” award for David Leebron. I’m hard pressed to think of how they could have done this any worse.

KTRU deal signed

Just in time for Rice’s homecoming weekend.

[Wednesday] afternoon, Friends of KTRU announced they had been informed that Rice and UH have signed an agreement to transfer the station’s ownership, and have retained the law firm of Paul Hastings in an attempt to thwart the sale.

B.J. Almond, Rice Senior Director of News and Media Relations, confirmed to our sister blog Rocks Off by phone that the agreement has been signed.

The announcement came in a letter from Rice President David Leebron to Rice students, faculty and alumni, he said.

In the letter, President Leebron said the sale will now go before the FCC for approval, a process that may take several months.

“We will consult with KTRU’s student managers about the timing for turning the tower over to KUHF, but we expect that to occur by the end of the semester or calendar year,” Leebron said in an excerpt from the letter posted on Rice’s Web site. “In the meantime, KTRU will continue to deliver its programming on 91.7 and online through www.ktru.org.”

Not surprisingly, KTRU supporters saw it a little differently.

“It is shameful that the Rice University administration has not heeded the thousands of voices asking to stop the sale of KTRU,” KTRU station manager Joey Yang said in the Friends of KTRU statement. “Instead, Rice has chosen to throw away more than 40 years of student-run tradition in favor of a new cafeteria for the campus. For this reason, we must pursue legal avenues for stopping the sale.”

I can’t say I expected anything to come from the valiant efforts to save KTRU, but for those who were invested in it this is the end of that chapter. I have a feeling there’s going to be some unrest among the alumni this weekend. Leebron’s letter is reproduced beneath the fold.

(more…)

The KTRU rally

The Houston Press, which has largely owned this story, reports from today’s rally to save KTRU.

Early this afternoon, protesters met at Valhalla, Rice’s on-campus pub, to make signs and t-shirts for the protest before marching as a group to the statue of William Marsh Rice in near triple-digit heat. The timing of the protest and the weather no doubt kept some people away, but the event was still 100-plus strong, with people lining the perimeter of the quad where trees provided shade.

Event organizers also set up tents, handed out cold water and gave away noisemakers to the protesters. Tables held “Save KTRU” stickers, petitions and poster-making supplies.

Even before the event started, one “KTRUvian” climbed atop the Willy statue to speak. “If we don’t take a stand now, nothing will ever change,” he said. “I invite you to create a little chaos.” He then had to be asked to climb down by the rally’s organizers, who had a tight schedule of speakers to get through.

Student DJ Joey Yang, who helped organize the rally, spoke of Rice’s upcoming 100-year anniversary and the station’s 40-year history as a student-run entity. He said he’d learned that over a year ago Rice began looking for someone to take the station “off of their hands,” to which someone in the audience angrily replied “It’s not their station!”

Yang said the University had adopted a new slogan for it’s anniversary “Unconventional Wisdom”.

“KTRU embodies what a Rice University education is supposed to be about.”

The Chron has some photos; they also opined about the sale.

Another UH rationale for the purchase was to increase the capacity of KUHF to produce quality local programming. In the past, critics have judged both KUHF’s classical music programs and local news and public affairs programming mediocre at best.

Simply adding another broadcast station at UH won’t solve that problem. It’s going to take strong leadership and talent, something that doesn’t automatically come with a new broadcasting tower and frequency. If the sale goes through, the ultimate justification for the expenditure must be a sharp upgrade in the quality, rather than the quantity, of programming.

Recent history suggests that’s not going to happen. I’m rooting for that outcome, too, but I can’t say I’ll be surprised to be disappointed.

I guess the question I have at this point is, how exactly do the Save KTRU folks hope to affect the final outcome? Both boards of regents have voted to go ahead with the sale. There’s a 30-day public comment period, after which the FCC must give its approval, but what are the odds that it won’t? More to the point, what are the conditions under which they won’t? (Yeah, there’s the Open Meetings Act issue, but 1) that’s a question for the Attorney General, not the FCC, and 2) far as I know, nobody has asked the Attorney General to investigate that yet.) I don’t see what leverage exists for those who oppose the sale. The Burn Down Blog suggests Rice President David Leebron is prepared for the possibility of losing the fight over KTRU, but he doesn’t suggest how Leebron might lose it. I admire the passion of the KTRU supporters, but I don’t know what their plan is. How exactly are they going to achieve the result they want? Help me out here, because I don’t see it.

UPDATE: More photos from the rally here.

UPDATE: And here’s the Chron story of the rally.